The Star Onions are three of our old composers from the Square stable: Kumi Tanioka, Naoshi Mizuta & Tsuyoshi Sekito joined with Hidenori Iwasaki. Together they create a semi bizarre, semi surreal and semi electronic acoustic group: The Star Onions. Taking various tracks from Final Fantasy XI (which Tanioka and Mizuta helped compose) they have released an arranged album called “Music From The Other Side of Vana’diel.
“Vana’diel March” opens the CD with a short piano arrangement of the song. In a military step, the music is quite chirpy and to the point and its a very straightforward translation, with a nice transition to the prelude theme at the end of the piece.
“Metalworks” is really where you find the true guise of the albums material however. Taking various keyboard loops and a saxophone lead, the song lazily bounces through a careful arrangement that reminds me of menu screens in arcade games where you type in your name for the score sheets on say “G1 Jockey” or something. Quite different to what I was expecting but fun nevertheless however the arrangement is a little too long. “Rolanberry Fields” actually sounds more electronic than the original. Having loved how acoustic the original soundtrack of Final Fantasy XI sounded it took me a little while to get to grips with this arrangment but its very much an alternative mix. Take out flutes, and pop a saxophone in – a bit like how a Genso Suikoden arrangement sounds! Far from bad at all, its another leisurely plod through The Star Onions world.
“Kahzam” finally gets things off to a roar with an up-tempo electronic guitar lead of the original feisty number. It really suits the arrangement well and the song is given a slightly Loveboat/Latino flavour which sounds better than it reads on paper. Definitely a favourite of the album.
“The Forgotten City – Tavazian Safehold” is a beautiful piano rendition which is full of empathy and beautiful sorrow, taking its time to let the atmosphere drip. “Mog House” however is a peaceful trip-hop acoustic number which is both playful and relaxing – a strange combo but its quite true. “The Sanctuary of Zi’Tah” continues to add the grooves in with a jazzy groove with some of the funkiest jazz guitar I’ve heard in a Final Fantasy game. The song almost sounds like a slowed down sonic song!
“Awakening” is the oddball in the album – the sole dark tune. Without warning your swapped in atmospheric percussion before a techno beat kicks in and synthesised orchestrations are pumping away at high speed. The song itself is fantastic but it feels so very out of place. However its nice to see diversity in an album too so The Star Onions don’t lose any points on including this fantastic song.
“Selbina” is the only song I’ve not really gotten to enjoy over time. It’s just a bit too 1988 cheesey jazz for me. It’s inoffensive but it just hasn’t quite sat right for me yet.
However the gem in the crown was saved for last. “Blessed in Her Glorious Light – The Grand Duchy of Jeuno” is a stunning Gospel number. Aundrea Hopkins has an amazing vocal talent and the song carefully builds up and up and up into a storming uplifting finale that really gets this reviewer going. A gospel choir giving it all they’ve got while drums breakdown and an organ screeches out at full volume pulled my heart strings that when I first heard it I replayed the song several times. Stunning.
The Star Onions may not appeal to everyone. Their genre is limited and their sound for many of the band songs really takes a bit of getting used to – its neither synthesised nor real and its a bit jarring at first. However once your passed that you have some excellent songs that you can really get your teeth into and I can’t get enough of that final track. *replays*